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Jan 09 2015

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Region Suffers from Large Outbreak of Flu

You know the signs – coughing, sneezing, high fever, sore throat – and you suspect you have the flu.

Don’t despair you aren’t alone. Many in the region are suffering from an outbreak of the flu as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 43 states have widespread flu activity including Virginia and Tennessee.

The Walgreens Flu Index placed the Tri-Cities, Tenn.-Va. Designated Market Area (DMA) in fourth place on its top 10 list of areas with the most flu activity during the week beginning Jan. 5.

Knoxville, Tenn. was ranked No. 1 followed by Paducah, Ky.–Cape Girardeau, Mo.–Harrisburg, Ill. at No. 2 and Chattanooga, Tenn. at No. 3.

Oklahoma City, Okla. comes in at fifth place. Rounding out of the bottom five are Columbia, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), Ala., Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas and Austin, Texas.

With three out of 10 locations in the ranking, Tennessee is certainly suffering from flu. It is currently ranked in second place behind Kentucky for states with the most flu activity.

But on the Walgreens Index, Virginia has climbed into fourth place on the Top 10 State Flu Activity Gains chart. Other states with increased flu gains are first – Arkansas, second – Oklahoma, third – Utah, fifth – Alabama, sixth – Nebraska, seventh – Kentucky, eighth – Idaho, ninth – Tennessee and 10th – New Mexico.

A total of 21 children have died from the flu this season, reported the CDC. Adult deaths cannot be determined because states are not required to report deaths attributed to flu in persons over 18. But the CDC estimates the number of persons who die from the flu to range from 3,000 to as many as 49,000 each year.

If you start to feel like you are getting the flu, symptoms include fever, sore throat, coughing and body aches. It’s important to go to a doctor and get a prescription for antiviral medication. Tamiflu and Relenza have been considered most effective at reducing complications when given soon after symptoms start.

According to the Virginia Department of Health:

About half of the influenza A (H3N2) viruses collected and analyzed in the United States in October and November have been different than the strain of H3N2 virus included in the influenza vaccine. Because of the detection of these “drifted” influenza A (H3N2) viruses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of using antiviral medications when indicated for treatment and prevention of influenza, in addition to vaccination.

CDC and VDH recommend that everyone 6 months of age or older receive a flu vaccination each year, especially those who are at high risk of serious complications from the flu. New this year:  healthy children 2 to 8 years of age are recommended to receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine instead of the flu shot.

Flu vaccines protect against multiple strains of influenza.  Annual vaccination is important, and it is not too late to get this year’s flu vaccine.  Even if the vaccine is not a “perfect” match to all the circulating flu strains, the vaccine can still offer some protection, and may help to prevent complications or severe illness if flu illness does occur.

The Walgreens Flu Index™ is a weekly report developed to provide state- and market-specific information regarding flu activity and ranking of those experiencing the highest incidences of influenza across the country.

It is compiled using weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza across Walgreens locations nationwide. The data is analyzed at state and geographic market levels to measure absolute impact and incremental change of antiviral medications on a per store average basis and does not include markets in which Walgreens has fewer than 20 retail locations.

According to the company, the Flu Index™ is not intended to illustrate levels or severity of flu activity, but rather, illustrate which populations are experiencing the highest incidence of flu.

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